Remote working is becoming more popular every day.
In the U.S. alone, 62% of people worked remotely in 2019, according to the State of Remote Work report by Owl Labs. In fact, the U.S. leads countries where remote working is prevalent, with 66% more remote employees than the global average.
Globally, 18% more employees worked remotely than on-site. And this number is projected to increase in the future. In 2019, remote working trends showed that this work culture has become more formalized than before.
Why, you ask?
Because remote working has numerous benefits. Plus, with web conferencing and team management tools getting more sophisticated and affordable, working remotely will be easier than ever.
If you are contemplating going remote or are finding it hard to manage your remote workers, this post is meant for you. I’ll explain briefly the benefits and challenges of working with remote teams, and then, elaborate on ways to make remote working a success for your organization.
Let’s dive in.
How Can Your Organization Benefit from Remote Working?
The rise of remote workers is inevitable. This type of working arrangement benefits not only employees but also managers and organizations on the whole.
It’s a widely-accepted fact that happy workers are productive workers. And, adaptive remote schedules make workers happy.
Don’t believe me?
Check this out:
Dr. Peter Hurst, Associate Dean at the MIT Sloan School of Management, carried out a pilot experiment (Quality of Life survey). The aim was to find out the impact of allowing workers to shift from a rigid, in-office working arrangement to a flexible, remote working one.
This is what respondents in his sample said:
- 90% reported that their family and personal lives have improved.
- 85% said that their stress levels have decreased.
- 80% said that their overall morale and work engagement have improved.
- 62% felt that their companies trusted and respected them more than before.
- 93% pointed out that collaboration with team members was better than before.
As you can see, remote workers are more satisfied with work and life in general. Since they are able to strike a work-life balance, they feel fewer guilt pangs and are able to give their 100% to work.
Naturally, their organizations and managers will reap the benefits from their employees’ enhanced productivity, efficiency, morale, and engagement.
Since employee loyalty is greater, their retention is not a problem. In this way, you save on rehiring and retention costs. Plus, there are other obvious cost savings in terms of office rent, infrastructure, and overhead like electricity, travel, and internet.
It’s no wonder that 43% of U.S. employers plan to offer opportunities for remote work this year.
What Are the Common Challenges of Managing Remote Workers?
Is remote work all upside?
Not at all.
It comes with a set of unique challenges that are preventing some employers from migrating their entire setup from on-site to remote.
Before we talk about how employers struggle to adapt to remote work, let’s take a look at the issues that remote employees face.
Buffer surveyed remote workers and found that they struggle to unplug after work (according to 22% of respondents), bond with on-site colleagues (19%), collaborate effectively (17%), and block distractions at home (10%).
Now, we come to the challenges in front of management teams. They face the following problems in managing their remote teams:
- Lack of supervision which leads to trust issues with employees
- Lower employee productivity due to distractions at home
- Conflicting time zones, language barriers, and different work patterns of workers
- Steeper learning curve of remote workers due to lack of face-to-face interaction
- Challenges using technology for communication and collaboration
Are you facing these challenges? The tips below can help you overcome them.
4 Proven Tips for Managing Remote Employees
Whether your workforce is entirely remote or partially, you will need to handle them with special care. Only then can you hope to build a cohesive and productive work culture in your organization. Take a look at how you can manage your remote teams.
1. Use Webinars and Video Conferencing
Communication is at the heart of remote working. You should use as many modes of communication as possible to connect with your remote colleagues.
Webinars and video conferences are a great alternative since you don’t have the option of communicating in-person with remote employees. Attendees can exchange audio, visual, and textual content, as well as share their screens.
You can add multiple people mid-meeting and record the sessions automatically.
Since cloud computing can enable remote working from anywhere at any time, use meeting platforms that are cloud-powered.
If you need to host an informal session where attendees can take control of the microphone, screen, and instant messenger on their own, video conferencing is a good option. Webinars are good when meeting hosts control the audio, video, and screen sharing capabilities.
Meetings in both modes can be made interactive by including Q&A sessions, polls, and breakout rooms.
Whichever mode you choose to use, take care to plan the meeting content beforehand, flow, and systems. Using the right meeting platforms can ensure glitch-free meetings.
Use robust tools so that you can focus on the people and content involved in the meeting. Let the tools take care of the technical side of the process.
Some web conferencing tools like FLOW allow you to simulate meetings with pre-recorded content for times when you are not available.
You can also upload your meeting content in advance on to the platform. It lets you specify what content to show, which presenter to enable, and what technical settings to use at various points during the meeting.
It’s also a good idea to have a brief orientation session on how to use these tools prior to hosting any meeting.
Your virtual meets will not be termed a success unless you are vigilant about the following:
- Draw a meeting schedule that is amenable to all participants, especially if they are scattered in different time zones.
- Inform the attendees in advance about the meeting schedule. Ask them to confirm their availability.
- Before the meeting, inform participants what preparations they need to do.
- Enable audio dial-in option for participants who have internet connectivity issues.
- Have a clear-cut agenda and objectives for your meeting.
- For interruption-free sessions, instruct participants to switch off their mobile phones and any other sources of distraction.
- Always record the meeting proceedings.
- Discourage people from chatting amongst themselves during the meeting.
- Sum up the key takeaways or ask one of the participants to do so.
2. Use Videos Extensively
One of the biggest hurdles of working with remote employees comes during the training and onboarding processes. It can be tricky and time-consuming to give lengthy knowledge downloads about your organization’s processes, products, and protocols.
That’s where videos can come in handy.
You can create engaging how-to and demo videos to explain complex processes and proprietary software. These can become valuable training resources for new hires.
Pre-recorded videos allow self-paced learning which is a must for remote workers. Additionally, you reduce the costs of in-person training since your in-office staff can work on more productive tasks.
The best part?
You don’t need to hire professional crews or purchase expensive filming equipment to create great videos. There are many affordable tools for video editing, like WeVideo and Camtasia, that you can use without any designing or editing experience.
3. Build Rapport with Remote Workers
While remote workers enjoy the freedom of working off-site, that doesn’t mean they don’t crave a feeling of belonging.
An HBR survey found that remote workers suffer from isolation syndrome. This is especially true for companies that don’t have fully-distributed remote teams. In these places, remote employees often miss out on fun and rapport shared by on-site teams.
To keep up the morale of your remote workers, the leadership should be sensitive about their issues and make an effort to build an inclusive culture.
It’s advisable to have one-on-one sessions with your remote employees, apart from team meets. Instead of just talking about targets and tasks, indulge in a bit of small talk. Get to know more about their environment, which will also give you insights about the kind of challenges they might be facing.
While it might not be feasible to get your remote workers together too often, try to meet them at least once a year.
At other times, virtual facetime will have to suffice. Look for signs of anxiety reflected through visual cues and body language.
Why does that matter?
Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s research on non-verbal communication found that non-verbal elements like body language convey 55% of what the speaker wants to say.
It means that if you rely solely on instant messages or emails for communicating with remote workers, you will convey only 7% of the essence. So, use calls and virtual meets to build a strong rapport.
4. Pay Attention to the Aspirations of Your Remote Workers
Indeed found that 37% of remote workers feel that they have reduced visibility in front of management which keeps them away from attaining leadership roles.
It’s a hard fact that many managers tend to ignore the career aspirations of remote workers. The “out of sight, out of mind” phrase literally depicts the situation of many remote workers.
In your one-to-ones, discuss the career path you have in mind for your remote employees. Build trust by delegating high-profile tasks to them. Keep a tab of their achievements and make it a point to give them shoutouts in your team emails and meetings.
Aspirations need not always be professional. Remote workers are sometimes treated unfairly when it comes to vacations. Given their flexibility, they seem perpetually available. Managers can assume that remote workers need no downtime, even when they are on vacation. This can make remote workers feel less valued and overworked.
Unless your remote employees are freelancers or contractors, treat them the same as your in-office employees. That is the best way to retain quality remote workers.
Are You Ready to Go Remote?
Remote work has obvious perks for organizations. But to make it successful, managers have to evolve their mindsets and upgrade their technical stacks and skills.
The tools and hacks I’ve explained in this post can help you overcome common challenges and produce happy remote employees. Do you have any questions about employee productivity and remote work culture? Write your questions in the comments. I’ll be happy to answer them.